Motorcycle accidents caused by the negligence of motor vehicle operators are a nationwide problem. In fact, according to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle accidents account for a significant number of deaths across the country every year.
Motorcycle accidents lead to severe injuries and deaths for the rider in part because of the limited protection that a motorcycle provides. Except for their helmets, individuals who ride motorcycles do not have the outer steel shell of a car or truck surrounding them at the time of impact.
Moreover, in a serious collision, the cyclist may be knocked from the motorcycle, landing directly on the ground and suffering a serious injury in the process. If something hits it with enough force, a helmet will crack in an accident, especially if the at-fault vehicle strikes the rider and they fall to the ground, hitting their head.
If you or someone you care about sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident caused by a negligent driver or some other person or entity, you have a legal right to compensation for your injuries and losses. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can assist you with filing a claim or lawsuit on your behalf and safeguarding your legal rights. The sooner you get the right legal assistance, the sooner you can begin protecting your rights as an injury victim.
How Motorcycle Accidents Typically Happen
When a motorcycle accident occurs, the negligence of a motor vehicle operator is often to blame. However, driver negligence is not the only cause of these accidents. What follows are some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents nationwide:
Disregarding Traffic Laws
When motor vehicle drivers are operating their cars and trucks on the road, they are responsible for following all traffic laws and regulations, as well as for driving in a reasonable, safe, and responsible manner at all times.
When motor vehicle drivers speed, fail to use their turn signals, tailgate, run stop signs and traffic lights, or violate other rules of the road, they increase the likelihood of causing their vehicles to collide with another vehicle, including motorcycles.
Distracted Motor Vehicle Operation
Another common cause of motorcycle accidents is distracted motor vehicle operation. Drivers engage in distracted driving when they operate their vehicles while texting or talking on a cellular phone or another electronic device. Playing loud music on the car stereo and disciplining small children in the car are also considered distracting activities.
When drivers have their heads turned or are otherwise distracted while operating their vehicles, they may not see a much smaller vehicle, such as a motorcycle, or avoid a collision in time.
Intoxicated Motor Vehicle Driving
Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is reckless and dangerous, and can lead to collisions with other motor vehicles or pedestrians. In most jurisdictions throughout the country, police officers can arrest an individual for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) or having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Lower BAC limits typically apply to holders of commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and minors under 21 years of age.
In many cases, police officers can arrest a driver for DUI if the driver appears to be intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Alcohol and drugs can have a significant and detrimental impact on a driver’s motor skills and slow down the driver’s reaction time. Moreover, drugs and alcohol may cause a driver’s vision to become blurry, preventing them from seeing a small vehicle on the road, such as a motorcycle or bicycle.
In some instances, motorcycle accidents are not the result of negligent, distracted, or intoxicated driving. Instead, these accidents occur due to the carelessness or negligence of some other person or entity.
For example, cities, municipalities, and other local governments are responsible for ensuring that roads in the area are properly maintained and free from large cracks, potholes, and other serious defects. When a motorcycle or bicycle hits a deep crack or pothole, the impact may be severe enough to dislodge the rider from the vehicle and cause them to fall to the ground or into surrounding traffic. If the victim can demonstrate that the accident happened because the responsible entity did not properly maintain the road, they may prevail in a claim or lawsuit filed against the municipality.
In some cases, private entities, such as construction companies, are responsible for maintaining the roadways and other areas surrounding a construction site. When roadway defects or debris lead to a motorcycle accident, the construction company responsible for maintaining the area may be on the line for negligence.
Motorcycle Mechanical Problems
In some instances, motorcycle accidents take place because of mechanical defects or poorly manufactured parts, causing the motorcycle to malfunction while in operation on the road. Motorcycle repair facilities owe a duty to customers to execute repair work in a careful, safe, and workmanlike manner at all times. If the mechanical defect is due to poorly performed repair work, the motorcycle repair facility may be held responsible for an accident.
Defective Motorcycle Parts
Like motorcycle repair facilities, suppliers and manufacturers of motorcycle parts owe a duty of care to their customers. Specifically, they have a duty to manufacture all parts correctly, avoid taking shortcuts in the manufacturing process, and test products thoroughly before making them available to the public for purchase. Examples of potentially defective motorcycle parts include handlebars, steering mechanisms, seats, and braking systems.
If a victim can demonstrate, often through expert testimony, that a defective motorcycle part caused or contributed to an accident, they can name the parts manufacturer (or someone else in the chain of distribution) as a defendant when filing a motorcycle accident claim or lawsuit.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident that resulted from any of these types of negligence, an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in your area can file the appropriate legal claim or lawsuit on your behalf.
Where Motorcycle Accidents Can Occur
Motorcycle accidents are just as common on busy highways as they are on rural country roads. However, motorcycle accidents that occur on multi-lane highways are likely to occur at higher rates of speed, leading to more severe injuries. In addition to roadways, motorcycle accidents can also happen in parking lots, parking garages, and other locations where motor vehicles are present.
Types of Injuries That Motorcycle Accident Victims May Suffer
When a motor vehicle collides with a motorcycle, especially if it occurs at a high rate of speed, it is the motorcyclist who often suffers the most serious injuries. Unlike the occupants of cars, trucks, and other passenger vehicles, motorcycles leave their operators and riders directly exposed to their surroundings. Consequently, if they are involved in an accident with another vehicle, they can fall from the motorcycle and sustain one or more severe injuries.
Common injuries that victims of motorcycle accidents suffer include traumatic injuries to the head and brain, soft tissue injuries (such as muscular contusions, sprains, and strains to various body parts), bone fractures, spinal cord and back injuries (including multiple types of paralysis), organ damage and other internal injuries, and, in the worst-case scenarios, death.
Injuries that an accident victim suffers in a serious motorcycle collision may require a significant amount of medical treatment. For example, in the case of a broken bone, the accident victim may need to undergo a medical procedure, such as surgery, to correct the injury.
Following the surgery, the victim may need to complete a regimen of physical therapy to function again fully. Victims of severe motorcycle collisions may also need to undergo pain management, such as injections. In undergoing all of this medical treatment, motorcycle accident victims can rack up significant medical bills and other expenses.
In addition to mounting medical bills, victims of motorcycle accidents may suffer such severe injuries that they must take time off of work to treat for and recover from their injuries. In some instances, this may only be a period of a few days, while at other times, the motorcycle accident victim may need to spend months away from their job.
In serious motorcycle accident cases, the accident victim’s injuries may be so severe that they cannot return to the same job or receive the same compensation. For example, the accident victim may have to work in a position that is not as physically demanding and accept a far lower salary than they received before the collision.
An experienced motorcycle accident attorney near you can handle all of the legal aspects of your case while you treat for your injuries. Your most important job at this time should be to recover from your injuries to the fullest extent possible.
Potential Defendants in Motorcycle Accident Cases
When it comes to filing a claim or lawsuit arising from a motorcycle accident, there are several individuals and entities you can name as defendants.
Those potential defendants include the following:
- Motor vehicle operators – If you are a passenger on a motorcycle and the operator of the motorcycle violated a traffic law or otherwise acted unreasonably under the circumstances, leading to an accident, then the injured passenger could name the motorcycle operator as a defendant. Similarly, if another motor vehicle operator did something wrong, then an injured motorcycle operator or passenger can name the other driver as a defendant.
- Construction companies and municipalities – When a road defect causes or contributes to a motorcycle accident, the accident victim could name the responsible construction company or municipality (such as a city, county, or township) as a defendant.
- Motorcycle part manufacturers – When a defective motorcycle part brings about an accident, then the injured accident victim can name the manufacturer, supplier, or some other individual or entity in the chain of product distribution as a defendant.
Potential Damages in Motorcycle Accident Cases
If you have suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident that someone else caused, you can file a claim for damages. First, you must prove that you did sustain an injury in the accident and that the accident was a cause of your injury. Motorcycle accident victims can recover monetary compensation for all of their medical costs related to the injury (including the costs of medical treatment, past medical procedures, physical therapy costs, and the anticipated costs of future medical treatment that you might need).
In addition, if the motorcycle accident victim missed time at work to recover from their injuries, then the accident victim can assert a lost wage claim. If the accident victim had to switch to a different job (and subsequently earned a lower pay rate) due to injuries, they could file a claim for loss of earning capacity.
In addition to these potential economic damages, a motorcycle accident victim may also be in a position to claim non-economic damages. These damages compensate accident victims for pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional distress, mental anguish, lost life enjoyment, and the inability to use a body part. Some accident victims can also assert a legal claim for loss of spousal companionship (consortium) and family support.
In some motorcycle accident cases, especially those that involve a drunk driver, accident victims may file a claim for punitive damages. The primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer and discourage others from committing similar wrongful acts.
Finally, if the victim of a motorcycle accident passes away in the accident, then the accident victim’s surviving family members can bring a wrongful death claim. As part of this claim, the surviving family members can pursue compensation for pain and suffering up to the time of the accident victim’s death, funeral costs, and loss of the decedent’s future income.
An experienced motorcycle accident attorney in your jurisdiction can help you pursue the compensation you need after suffering injuries in a motorcycle accident. Contact us at The Patel Firm PLLC today! Give us a call at (361) 400-2036.